H2Med at the epicentre of a major hydrogen summit in Berlin, despite being an oversized and unnecessary project

This Wednesday, 18th of October, the Spanish Embassy in Berlin is hosting the event ‘H2Med: an example of European energy cooperation’ organised by Enagás, which aims to cross-examine the existing interest in what aspires to be the main green hydrogen infrastructure that would connect the Iberian Peninsula with central Europe.

“The importance of the meeting, which will be attended by decision-makers from the European Commission and authorities from the Spanish, German and French governments, raises the need to shine light on technical and economic viability issues concerning the project, as well as its possible adverse socio-environmental impacts”, says the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA), based in Spain.

The conference will summon leading figures from the European energy transition sector, such as the Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Franziska Brantne; the Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, Mechthild Wörsdörfer; the Director General for Energy Policy and Mines at the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Manuel García; and the French Ambassador to Germany, François Delattre, among others. It will also be attended by the main CEOs of energy companies such as Arturo Gonzalo (Enagás), Thierry Trouvé (GRTGaz), Dominique Mockly (Teréga), Rodrigo Costa (REN), and Frank Reiners (OGE). 

H2Med includes two cross-border interconnections that would allow hydrogen to be transported from the Iberian Peninsula to France. The first would connect Spain and Portugal via land (H2Med-CelZa project), while the second would be an underwater interconnection between Spain and France (H2Med-BarMar project). Environmental organisations at the European level have repeatedly stated that the current levels of green hydrogen production and the uncertainty regarding its future production and demand do not justify the construction of this project.

The difficulties associated with long-distance transport of green hydrogen from an economic, technical and energy efficiency perspective imply that its local production and consumption should be prioritised. “Green hydrogen should aim to replace current fossil-based hydrogen, thus prioritising the decarbonisation of those sectors that traditionally consume hydrogen and that already have infrastructures adapted for its use. Infrastructure projects for the long-distance transport of green hydrogen, such as H2Med, are completely unnecessary,” says Massimiliano Patierno, environmental engineer at IIDMA. In addition, its technical feasibility is not proven – there is currently no technical recommendation guidance for the design of underwater hydrogen products to guarantee the efficiency and safety of the infrastructure.

Regarding other end uses for green hydrogen, IIDMA states that for energy efficiency reasons, it should be limited to sectors that are difficult to electrify, i.e. those for which energy from renewable sources alone cannot replace fossil energy, as is the case in some high-temperature industrial processes, aviation or heavy road transport.

Also, it is important to bear in mind that the large-scale production of green hydrogen requires large amounts of water and electricity, which would need the deployment of massive amounts of renewable power, for which a much broader, transparent and citizen-involved social debate would need to be undertaken.

It should be noted that H2Med is currently a candidate for the new list of Projects of Common European Interest (PCI). This means that it could have the status of a priority and strategic project, which implies certain benefits to speed up its commissioning, such as funding from the European Union, better regulatory conditions or faster authorisation processes, which could weaken the environmental requirements that this project must comply with. IIDMA filed comments against the inclusion of the H2Med project in the PCI list last March. “There are no studies on the prospects for demand and consumption of green hydrogen. Therefore, the construction of H2Med, as well as granting it the status of PCI, makes little sense” says Carlota Ruiz-Bautista, environmental lawyer at IIDMA.

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